Don’t Look is one of twenty works produced by contemporary artists for the Cubitt Print Box in 2000. Cubitt is an artist-run gallery and studio complex in north London. In 2001 the complex moved from King’s Cross to Islington and the prints were commissioned as part of a drive to raise funds to help finance the move, and to support future exhibitions and events at the new gallery space. All the artists who contributed to the project had previously taken part in Cubitt’s programme. The portfolio was produced in an edition of 100 with twenty artists’ proofs; Tate’s copy is number sixty-six in the series.
Don’t Look is a large sheet of white paper that has successively been folded in half four times. Opened out, the page reveals indentations that divide the paper into sixteen rectangles. Towards the top of the page the words ‘DONT [sic] LOOK’ are silkscreened in clear gloss ink in a simple sans serif font. Sadotti’s work is much larger than the other prints in the portfolio. To fit in the print box with the other works it must remain folded. The folding suggests an attempt to hide the print’s message, to contain a secret. Once the print is unfolded the words tantalisingly prohibit further visual investigation. To see the message one must look at the work, immediately defying its censure.
Sadotti’s apparently simple, mildly anarchic gesture is reminiscent of a schoolboy prank. Don’t Look also addresses broader issues of representation, making the viewer aware of his or her own desire to look at the work. The message is literally difficult to see. The text is visible only because of the difference in texture between the matte paper and the glossy lettering; the colourless ink ensures that it is possible to read the text only when the print catches the light. The print also makes understated reference to ideas about the relationship between artist, artwork and audience by emphasising the combination of exhibitionist and self-effacing tendencies in art production.
Sadotti’s practice has been predominantly performance-based. For one of his early projects, Be Me, 1996, he asked thirty-one friends and acquaintances each to take on his persona for the day. For Went to America Didn’t Say a Word, 1999, Sadotti travelled to New York for a twenty-four hour period during which he did not speak. He recorded everything he overheard and played the tapes as a sound piece on his return to London. Don’t Look relates to Sadotti’s other text-based work, including an editioned invitation card on which the word ‘Now’ is printed on both front and back (Now, 2000).
The contrary, provocative use of language in this work is arguably indebted to the work of Bruce Nauman (born 1941; see NO (Black State), 1981, Tate P07938). The folds in the paper recall Work No. 88: a sheet of A4 paper crumpled into a ball, 1995 (Tate Archive) by Martin Creed (born 1968), whose Work No. 233, 2000 (Tate P78388) is also included in the Cubitt Print Box.
Stefano Pasquini, ‘A Portrait of Giorgio Sadotti’, Stefano Pasquini: Essays, 2001, stefanopasquini.net/stef/essays/giorgio.htm.
Gilda Williams, ‘Be Me’, Art Monthly, no.201, November 1996, pp.27-8.
Stella Santacatterina, ‘Strategies Towards the Remaking of the Artistic Self’, Third Text, no.37, Winter 1996-97, pp.99-103.
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